This winter, I would like to add a couple of soup recipes to our collection, and what better way to start than with this soup from my hometown, Shanghai? When it comes to Shanghainese soups, Yan Du Xian (腌笃鲜), is pretty much the crown jewel.
It was always reserved for special guests, because the ingredients were expensive back in the day. I remember having this soup just once a year growing up—for Chinese New Year. My grandma and my aunt would make egg dumplings (蛋饺) to round things out, along with glass noodles and napa cabbage. Ahhh…it was so good!
The star ingredient is without a doubt the salted pork. If you can’t find salted pork, use Chinese ham instead. Many families like to use the combination of salted pork and ham (crazy good, I know), as the two add a wonderful earthy flavor to your Yan Du Xian.
Just so you know, Chinese ham is generally pretty salty, but salted pork can vary quite a bit. But don’t worry too much—at the end of the day…if your soup is too salty, you can always add a bit more water.
As if all these salty pork products weren’t good enough, the recipe also has fresh pork. This is actually the distinctive feature of this Shanghainese yan du xian soup. The name says it all: the combination of the salted pork (Yan, 腌) and the fresh pork (Xian, 鲜) creates wonderful, lip-smacking umami flavor, and it all comes together as it simmers (Du, 笃).
If this all seems too simple to be true, just wait. The broth might look light and clear, but it carries big flavor. If you’ve never made any of our soup recipes, you should give this one a try. It’s less common than Hot & Sour Soup, but it’s definitely a family favorite! Feel free to add some glass noodles and/or napa cabbage if you want to mix things up.
One interesting ingredient traditionally in this yan du xian soup is the tofu skin knots. These are sheets of tofu that are rolled and tied into knots, providing a really tasty, textural element to the soup.
You can usually find them in the refrigerated and/or frozen sections of your local Asian grocery store. If you can’t find them, simply substitute slices of firm tofu.
- If the salted pork is very salty, you can reduce its salt content by soaking it in cold water, changing the water a couple of times first.
- For the bamboo, it’s best to use fresh, but frozen bamboo also works fine. We wouldn’t recommend using canned, however, as the flavor is quite a bit stronger than in the fresh/frozen varieties.
- This soup is also a great base for a bowl of yummy noodle soup or wonton soup; just remember to cook the noodles or wontons separately!
For more information on ingredients we use in our recipes, check out our Chinese Ingredients pages complete with pictures and descriptions and Amazon links where you can purchase them if you can’t find them at a local Asian grocery store.
*If you are using ham, cut it into ½” x ½” cubes, and try not to use more than 3 ounces. Also, remember to reduce the salted pork by at least 1/4 pound to offset the addition of the ham.
Boil a large pot of water, and clay or earthen pot, if you have one is best. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, wash and cut all the meats. Blanch them all at once in the boiling water. Drain and set aside.
In a large soup pot, add 14 cups water, ginger, and all the blanched meats. Bring everything to a boil, and immediately turn the heat to down to a simmer. Let the soup simmer for 90 minutes.
After 90 minutes, add the bamboo shoots. Bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
Serve this Traditional Yan Du Xian soup as a starter or with rice and a veggie side as a meal!
Yan Du Xian Shanghai Pork Soup w/ Bamboo & Tofu
- 1 pound fresh pork belly (or 2 pounds pork ribs, cut into 1” x 1” chunks)
- 1 pound salted pork (cut into 1” x 1” chunks, mine was homemade, and therefore not too salty; if you’re using store-bought, you may want to use slightly less)*
- 14 cups water
- 4 slices ginger
- 1 pound frozen bamboo shoots (or fresh winter bamboo, when in season, cut into bite-sized pieces)
- 1 package tofu skin knots
- Salt (to taste; but it’s likely that you won’t need it)
- 1 scallion (finely chopped)
- Boil a large pot of water. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, wash and cut all the meats. Blanch them all at once in the boiling water. Drain and set aside.
- In a large soup pot, add 14 cups water, ginger, and all the blanched meats. Bring everything to a boil, and immediately turn the heat to down to a simmer. Let the soup simmer for 90 minutes.
- After 90 minutes, add the bamboo shoots. Bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
- Now add the tofu skin knots. Bring the entire thing to a boil, and simmer for another 20 minutes. Salt to taste, sprinkle with chopped scallions, and it’s ready to serve!
Tips & Notes: